Tag Archives: Country Mansion

THE CASTLE

Typical of 20th century decline. A once great mansion that fell on hard times. The fall and rise of a country house

The Castle 1 (Urban Base)

It’s taking a surprisingly long time to shift The Castle at Castle Eden. Offers are wanted in the region of £2.5 million, a reduction of nearly £500,000 since being advertised in 2017. This Grade II listed mansion was built about 1765 by William Newton for Rowland Burdon III, a merchant banker. It was embellished with gothic detail by architect Sir John Soane about 1780 and there were later additions, including a prefabricated concrete palm-house on the west front, by F.R. Hicks in 1863.

The Burdon family go back a long way. They lived at Stockton-on-Tees from the reign of Edward IV, and one of them, Robert Burdon, was Mayor of Stockton in 1495, and the first Rowland Burdon was Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees nine times. It was in 1758 that his great-grandson Roland Burdon III bought the dilapidated Castle Eden estate from William Throckmorton Bromley and became the family seat for nearly 200 years. According to Historic England the estate was in poor condition and unenclosed, the chapel was in ruins and the house had gone. He set about enclosing the land, in 1764 re-erected the church and a year later built the house we know today. It has three storeys and a seven-bay entrance front. The central three bays are canted and the whole property carries a castellated parapet.

The Castle (Durham County Council)
The exterior of The Castle. This photograph is thought to date between 1900 and 1909. (Durham County Council).

No expense was spared constructing the country house. Burdon bought nearby Horden Hall, simply to cannibalise it for its staircase and its Jacobean fireplace, while its parkland was carefully planned to hide distant views of the flourishing Shotton Colliery. Within this hidden idyll the family remained until the 20th century despite almost losing it through some poor financial investments along the way.

It might have been paradise for the Burdons, but J.B. Priestley wasn’t enamoured when he visited the area in 1933: “I stared at the monster [the Shotton tip], my head tilted back, and thought of all the fine things that had been conjured out of it in its time, the country houses and townhouses, the drawing-rooms and dining rooms, the carriages and pairs, the trips to Paris, the silks and the jewels, the peaches and iced puddings, the cigars and old brandies; I thought I saw them all tumbling and streaming out, hurrying away from Shotton – oh, a long way from Shotton – as fast as they could go.”

The Castle 1 (Northern Echo)

When Colonel Rowland Burdon died in 1944 the family’s fortunes, like the surrounding area, had diminished and were to be found living in more modest houses in Yorkshire and New Zealand. In 1947, arrangements were made for the National Coal Board to move into The Castle, as headquarters No 3 for the area, and remained for twenty years. “It is a charmed spot concealed from the scarred industrial landscape which surrounds it”.

As might have been expected the occupants didn’t care too much for their new surroundings. One commentator described the house as being ‘savagely raped and institutionalised – the staircase was torn out and consigned to a nearby museum while six-inch holes were hammered through the cornicing to fit central heating pipes’.

Northern Daily Mail - Sat apr 20 1946 (BNA)
The Castle, pictured in 1946, a year before being sold to the National Coal Board as offices. (British Newspaper Archive).

When the NCB moved out in 1967, The Castle was left to stand derelict and probably fortunate to survive the demolition men. It was sold in 1979 to a private owner, who carried out some work to halt the decay, but remained unoccupied. By 1983, it was on the market again and proved to be a stubborn property to sell. Described as being ‘a poisoned chalice’ for each local estate agency chosen, in turn, to sell it, it wasn’t until 1999 that the mansion found a buyer.

The Castle (Keys to the Past)
The Castle, empty and decaying, photographed here before restoration in 1997. (Keys to the Past).

Sue Gillman came to visit her father’s grave in the adjoining churchyard: “The first I knew about it was when we approached the churchyard and saw a big sign saying, ‘Castle for sale’.” Having persuaded a security guard to show him round, her husband Tony discovered a scene of despair. “The house was full of dogs’ poo,” he says. “It was a warm summer’s day outside, but inside it was cold. The building was boarded up and had been heavily institutionalised and the gardens were completely overgrown. The unusual, pyramidal cupola above the central atrium turned out on closer inspection to be an aluminium greenhouse hastily erected in a vain attempt to keep out the rain. In fact, water had been pouring through the roof, down three storeys on to the floor of the hall. The asking price was £500,000, around which, hardly surprisingly, some negotiation was permitted.”

Within two years a large part of the house had been restored although the older part still required restoration and remained empty. However, the value of The Castle had already soared to £1.3 million.

The Castle 7 (Urban Base)
The past few years have been kind to The Castle. Refurbishment continues although the size of the property is deemed too big for its owners. Once again it is a showcase on the property market. According to estate agents Urban Base, The Castle comprises; Orangery, Grand Reception Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Sitting Room, Games Room, Breakfast Kitchen, Cloakroom. Nine superior bedrooms comfortably accommodating up to eighteen at any one time, luxury bathroom suites. Externally there is approximately 14 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens and mature woodland, along with ample parking for up to eight vehicles. A golf course occupies the former parkland.

The Castle 2 (Urban Base)

The Castle 4 (Urban Base)

The Castle 3 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 9 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 11 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 8 (Northern Echo)

The Castle 9 (Urban Base)

The Castle 6 (Urban Base)

The Castle 10 (Urban Base)

The Castle 15 (Urban Base)

CHATSWORTH HOUSE

A stately home without a Duke. How its treasures were cared for in the absence of the Duke of Devonshire

Chatsworth 1 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
The ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire. In 1946, the 10th Duke had placed Chatsworth and its treasures on a caretaking basis, as he didn’t expect to live there for many years, partly on account of high taxation and partly on account of the servant problem. (British Newspaper Archive).

The domain of Chatsworth was purchased by Sir William Cavendish and it was he in 1553 who began the old mansion, which after his death in 1557 was completed by his widow, Bess of Hardwick. Here in succeeding years Mary Queen of Scots was five times imprisoned. The present mansion includes the old Palladian pile started in 1687 by the first Duke of Devonshire and the north-wing added in 1820.

With its 636,000 visitors a year, Chatsworth House may have become one of our greatest stately homes. However, life in the Duke of Devonshire’s grand mansion wasn’t always a bed of roses. In 1946, The Sphere painted a rather bleak and uninspiring outlook for the house, a stark contrast to its present-day fortunes.

Back then, ‘one of the private treasure-houses of the nation’ was reduced to one housemaid, a sole survivor of a pre-war domestic staff of forty, and the whole house was being kept on a caretaking basis.

Chatsworth House was without a Duke. Taxation of the time made it impossible for him to live there in the old style while the servant problem was almost insuperable. It was suggested that one day the Duke might return to his Derbyshire home, but he himself didn’t expect this to happen for many years.

The custodian was Edward William Spencer Cavendish (1895-1950), the 10th Duke of Devonshire, who was still reeling from the loss of his eldest son and heir, William John Robert Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, who had been killed in wartime action two years before. The future of Chatsworth would have rested on the shoulders of Billy Cavendish (and his wife, Kathleen Kennedy), but instead the weight of responsibility later fell to his second and younger son, Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish (1920-2004).

Chatsworth 2 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
Mingled with the shrouded furniture in the Sculpture Gallery are examples of the genius of Canova, Thorwaldsen, Chantrey and Wyatt: During the war, when Chatsworth was used as a girls’ school, this gallery was converted into a storeroom for some of the principal treasures. (British Newspaper Archive).
Chatsworth 3 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
Restoring and preserving the great pictures of Chatsworth. Captain T.S. Wragg, who had been librarian at Chatsworth since 1933, at work on the surface cleaning of a painting on copper. (British Newspaper Archive).
Chatsworth 4 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
Mr G.H. Constantine, technical assistant at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, at work on a landscape. He spent two days a week cleaning and restoring the Chatsworth pictures, paying particular attention to the regulation of the atmosphere. The Chatsworth pictures included works by Holbein, Titian, Reynolds and Murillo. (British Newspaper Archive).

The Chatsworth estate was saddled with debt. Death duties, liabilities from previous incumbents and a depression in British agriculture had all contributed to its downfall. In 1920, Devonshire House, the family’s London mansion, had been sold to developers and later demolished; Chiswick House, a Palladian villa in West London was sold to Brentford Council in 1929.  However, the financial burden refused to go away, and it was quite impossible to keep Chatsworth House occupied.

While Chatsworth was mothballed everything was being done to preserve its treasures, including its magnificent library, with its 35,000 books, including many irreplaceable first editions, and the art collection, including canvases by Murillo Van Eyck, Titian, Reynolds and other masters.

During World War 2 Chatsworth had been occupied by the Penrhos Girls’ College and it had taken its toll. Fumes from moth-balls in stored carpets, and lack of oxygen due to occupation of rooms by large numbers of people, had affected many of the pictures. Inadequate heating during the acute coal shortage caused fluctuations in temperature which caused the canvas of paintings to contract and expand, leading in time to cracking and flaking.

A small staff of experts had been brought in to repair years of inevitable neglect. Pictures were being cleaned, and the books whose leather was becoming brittle were being dressed in ointment, developed by the British Museum.

Chatsworth 5 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
The elaborate alter-piece in Chatsworth’s private chapel. An example of the decorative style so typical of the mansion. The alter-piece is the work of Verrio, the walls and ceilings are by Laguerre, and Cibber’s figures of Faith and Hope surmount the alter of alabaster by Samuel Watson. Watson’s wood-carving, can be seen throughout the house. When these pictures were first published it would have been a rare opportunity for people to see inside the house. (British Newspaper Archive).
Chatsworth 6 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
In the Orangery. Stored furniture, sculpture and books. The large marble urn in the centre was a copy of the Medici Vase. The Orangery is now a gift shop. (British Newspaper Archive).
Chatsworth 7 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
A 15th century masterpiece restored to its pristine glory. Mr Constantine, technical assistant at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, and Mr Thompson examining a canvas after its renovation. The pictures all have a protective coat of varnish, and this had to be removed before they could be submitted to the turpentine-and-wax restorative treatment. Inadequate heating as a result of coal shortage had caused considerable fluctuations in temperature, and this had caused deterioration of some of the valuable canvases. (British Newspaper Archive).

When the 10th Duke of Devonshire died in 1950 there were death duties of £7 million. The 11th Duke, Andrew Cavendish, along with his wife Deborah (‘Debo’), fought hard to keep the estate, selling tens of thousands of acres of land, transferring Hardwick Hall to the National Trust in lieu of taxes, and selling major works of art. Chatsworth House opened to the public in 1948-49, but it would take until 1959 for the 11th Duke of Devonshire to move back into the house. It was a happy outcome and the rest, as they say, is history.  Chatsworth House

Chatsworth 8 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
Leather-bound books needed constant care and attention. The covers often became brittle with age, and Captain T.S. Wragg, the librarian, was seen applying a dressing to the batch which he had selected for treatment form the shelves. This dressing had been developed by the Research Department of the British Museum and had been found to be the most effective. (British Newspaper Archive).
Chatsworth 9 - The Sphere - Dec 28 1946 (BNA)
A view of the main library, where half the collection was accommodated. When Chatsworth was rebuilt in 1687 by the first Duke of Devonshire this was the Long Gallery, and it was converted into a library by the sixth Duke at the beginning of the 19th century. The preservation of the books was an unending task, and expert binders were constantly at work on repairs and renovations. (British Newspaper Archive),

STOUTS HILL

A Georgian Gothic-style country house that became a boarding school and time share apartments

Stouts Hill 1 (KF)

The asking price of £2 million for Stouts Hill, on the outskirts of Uley village, appears somewhat modest in today’s property market. According to Knight Frank, Stouts Hill is an impressive Grade II* Strawberry Hill Georgian Gothic-style country house time share club/resort which sits in a stunning valley in the Cotswold Hill escarpment, surrounded by 22 acres. Subject to planning there is potential to convert the house back into a substantial family home. Stouts Hill was converted into timeshare apartments in 1979 and is currently arranged as 8 reception rooms, 9 apartments and 5 two bedroom cottages. The Stouts Hill Club Limited will cease operation on point of sale and subject to planning there is the potential to convert the house into a stunning family home.

Stouts Hill 4 (KF)

The historian, Nicholas Kingsley, in his ‘The Country Houses of Gloucestershire’, says Stouts Hill was bought in 1697 by Timothy Gyde, a clothier. In 1716, it was settled on his son Thomas who died in 1743. It passed to his son, Timothy Gyde II, ‘a man of different outlook to his father’. He built a new house, probably constructed by William Halfpenny, ‘entertained lavishly, kept a mistress, gambled, and paid insufficient attention to his business’. The inevitable meant that it was bought in 1785 by the Rev. William Lloyd Baker who lived here until his death in 1830. His son, Thomas Barwick Lloyd Baker, bought Hardwicke Court, near Gloucester, and Stouts Hill was used as a secondary home, occupied by a relation, Colonel Benjamin Chapman Browne, whose family remained until the early part of the 20th century. The Colonel’s son, Sir Benjamin Chapman Browne, was later Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and chairman of the Tyneside engineering and shipbuilding firm of Hawthorn, Leslie & Co Ltd.

Stouts Hill was let by Olive Lloyd Baker to the Hardinge Preparatory School who transferred here in 1935. ‘The picturesque and delightfully situated house has been modernised, is equipped with central heating and is in excellent order‘. Not that ‘delightful’, as it would appear to have been empty for two years, with no electricity or main drainage. It became known as Stouts Hill School, whose notable boarders later included Captain Mark Phillips and the actor Stephen Fry, closing in 1979.

Stouts Hill 5 (KF)

Stouts Hill 6 (KF)

Stouts Hill 7 (KF)

Stouts Hill 8 (KF)

Stouts Hill 9 (KF)

Stouts Hill 10 (KF)

Stouts Hill 11 (KF)

DINMORE MANOR HOUSE

An impeccable Grade II listed manor house with Gothic touches 

Dinmore Manor 1 (Savills)

This country house estate at Hope Under Dinmore is currently on the market and likely to cost potential buyers well over £30 million. At its centre is Dinmore Manor, a Grade II listed large country house in a well-wooded, hilly part of Herefordshire. It includes a substantial acreage of about 1,552 acres including productive arable land, pasture and woodland. The house was erected on the site of a Preceptory about the time of Queen Elizabeth and, according to records, altered around 1830 and extended about 1928.

Since 1732 it was in the possession of the Fleming and St. John families and has enjoyed remarkably few owners since.

By the turn of the 20th century it was in the possession of the Rev. Harris Fleming St. John (1833-1903), who, as an only son, inherited from his father, Fleming St. John. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with a Master of Arts and in 1878 married Gertrude Margaret Ward, the eldest surviving daughter of Charles Ward of Clifton. He enjoyed an ecclesiastical career after being ordained as a Deacon in 1859 and a Priest from 1861. He became Chaplain of Dinmore Preceptory Chapel in 1879 having formerly filled curacies at Kempsford, Gloucestershire, and Leeds, and had acted as Domestic Chaplain to Bishop Wodford of Ely (1873-85). The chapel at Dinmore was fully restored by him in 1886. Being Lord of the Manor at Dinmore (and owning Henwick Grange, Worcestershire) meant he was also a considerable landowner.

Dinmore Manor 26 (Savills)
Following Harris St. John’s death, the Dinmore estate passed to his son, Oliver Stukely Fleming St. John (1881-1955), a man more akin to the land, who made his wealth as a fruit grower at Kipperknowle Farm.  He was educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, and later gained the rank of Lieutenant between 1916 and 1919 in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He married, firstly, Agnes Margaret Jane Jenkin in 1913 and, secondly, Elizabeth Sarah Ross in 1924.

In 1927 the estate was bought by Richard Hollins Murray (1882-1957) who was responsible for the house we see today. Murray was a Chartered Accountant and a Manchester-based Company Director, also owning a large house called Erlesdine, at Bowden, Cheshire. In 1927, the same year he bought Dinmore Manor, he patented the idea of reflective glass beads for advertising signs and road signage, a concept later developed by Percy Shaw to create ‘cat’s eyes’ in the road.

ec7fd912-0c73-4719-88ac-fad5ecdece14
Richard Hollins Murray (1882-1957) bought Dinmore in 1927. (Image: HollinsMurray/Ancestry).

Richard Hollins Murray spent a considerable sum on the house, including several ‘Gothic’ additions, and restored the 13th century chapel of the Knight Hospitallers of Jerusalem, as well as the cloisters leading from the chapel to the manor. (Murray was an Officer of the Order of St. John Jerusalem). The gardens were also re-landscaped with the creation of a new rock garden. They became his ‘pride and joy’ and were regularly opened to the public. He enhanced them with amplifying apparatus in the belfry of the chapel through which classical music concerts were broadcast while visitors walked around the grounds.

Following his death in 1957 the estate passed to his son, Charles Ian Murray (1911-1976) and remained with the family until the end of the century. In 1999 it was bought by Martin Dawes, ‘a serial entrepreneur’, who made his fortune renting television and radio sets in the North-West in the Sixties. He pocketed £70 million from the sale of his Martin Dawes Telecommunications business to Cellnet and probably used this windfall to buy Dinmore Manor. Later, in 2002, he made up to £29 million by selling his 35 per cent stake in Opal Telecom, which was bought by Carphone Warehouse, of which he became a director.

In addition to the Manor House, the wider estate now includes 21 other residential properties, a magnificent shoot, an outstanding cattle breeding facility and a world class equestrian complex set up by Dawes for a reputed £14 million.

All images courtesy of Savills, except where stated.

Dinmore Manor 4 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 5 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 6 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 7 (Savills)

Dinmore Manor 8 (Savills)

This home-made 8mm movie was produced by the Murray family of Dinmore Manor, Herefordshire, in 1938. The sound was added some years later. Music; excerpts from Les Preludes, Liszt.

CLEADON PARK

A classical Georgian-style mansion built on the proceeds of glass-making and enhanced by coal profits.

Cleadon Park (South Tyneside Libraries)
On this day, 100 years ago, an important proposal went before South Shields Town Council that recommended the Housing and Town Planning Committee acquire the Cleadon Park estate (then in County Durham), belonging to the late James Kirkley, about a mile south of the town.

Following James Kirkley’s death in 1916 the estate had been on the market, but the council had no power to purchase it outright. The Mayor, Councillor A. Anderson, instead entered into a personal contract to secure the demesne at the stated price of £18,000.

The completion was set for August 1st and he had offered to give the council the opportunity to obtain possession of the estate at the sum he had agreed to pay for it.

The original house had been an old farmhouse called Cleadon Cottage and by 1839 was owned by Robert Walter Swinburne (1804 -1886), a South Shields’ glass manufacturer. (In 1850 his company provided half the glass used in the construction of the Crystal Palace).  In 1845 Swinburne commissioned the architect John Dobson to redesign the property, constructing a two-storey classical Georgian mansion with an additional new 8-bay south wing.

Swinburne later moved to Highfield House, Hawkstone, and by the 1860s the estate had passed into the hands of Charles William Anderson (1827 -1906), a conspicuous figure in public life and a lieutenant in the South Shields Rifle Corps. As well as being a banker, he was one of the principal colliery owners in Durham and Northumberland, with interests in both the Harton Coal Company and the Bedlington and Heworth Coal Company.

Anderson remained until 1875 and there were attempts to sell the property. However, Cleadon Park appears to have been tenanted by several wealthy individuals instead. These included Mr A.M. Chambers, Mr Peter Sinclair Haggie, coal-owner and rope manufacturer, who later removed to Windsor Terrace in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and The Limes at Whitburn, and Mr John Salmon, an ardent lover of the sea.

As well as owning property at 31 Park Lane, London, Anderson returned to Cleadon Park in the 1890s and, despite attempting to dispose of the estate in 1904, owned it until his death in 1906.

Shields Daily Gazette - Sat 10 Jul 1875 (BNA)
An advertisement from the Shields Daily Gazette in July 1875. Despite the intention to sell Cleadon Park remained in the hands of C.W. Anderson until his death in 1906. (Image: British Newspaper Archive).

James Kirkley (1851-1916), a solicitor, arrived at Cleadon Park in 1907 after inheriting considerable wealth from his cousin.  He became a director in the Harton Coal Company and now had the means to live the life of a country gentleman. In a twist of irony, one of his first tasks was to oppose a proposal for a new infectious diseases hospital nearby. He stated he had spent thousands of pounds on Cleadon Park and wouldn’t have done so if he thought the corporation was going to put a fever hospital in his midst. ‘If he had thought the hospital scheme was going on he would never have come to live at Cleadon Park at all, and the town would have been poorer by £6,000 or £7,000 a year.’ 

In addition to Cleadon Park, standing in 10 acres of grounds surrounded by trees, he also tenanted Fairlight Hall, near Hastings, owned by the Shadwell family,  where he spent six months each year. Kirkley later hired J.H. Morton & Sons to create a new palm house, tropical plant house and formal gardens at Cleadon Park but he died before the work was completed.

Cleadon Park (South Tyneside Historic Images Online)
The glass covered Tropical House at Cleadon Park with palm trees reaching up to the roof. (Image: South Tyneside Historic Images Online).

Following Kirkley’s death the estate remained on the market until the intervention of Councillor A Anderson in 1918. His purchase had also included Cleadon Park Farm and a piece of land opposite Cleadon Park Gates containing over 51 acres.

After weeks of delays the council eventually decided to proceed with the proposal. A portion of the estate, comprising about 130 acres, was appropriated for houses under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, and the remaining 65 acres, including the mansion house, buildings and offices, be used for an infectious diseases hospital, a tuberculosis sanatorium, and a hospital for maternity treatment.

The house became a sanatorium between 1921 and 1967, later becoming Cleadon Park Hospital, closing in 1979. It was demolished in 1981.

James Kirkley (South Tyneside History)
James Kirkley ((1851-1916), J.P. a native of South Shields, who took an interest in the welfare of the seaside borough and its residents. In early life he studied law and practised as a solicitor. In 1892 he went to London where he continued his professional career until 1906 when, succeeding to the estate of his cousin, returned to his native north east and took up his residence at Cleadon Park. (Image: South Tyneside History).
Cleadon Park (Google Maps)
Cleadon Park was demolished in 1981. Modern housing stands on the site of the old house and this aerial view suggests that an original wall in the courtyard may have been used as a retaining wall to an adjoining property. (Image: Google Maps).

PLAS NEWYDD

In 1918 Plas Newydd was sold to the approval of locals. However, within months its historical contents were sold at auction.

Plas Newyd 1 - The Sketch 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
Plas Newydd had many occupants after the Ladies of Llangollen. It was for a time the residence of two other maiden ladies and afterwards, until 1890, was in the possession of General Yorke, who added a wing and made many alterations. (The British Newspaper Archive).

One hundred years ago, The Liverpool Daily Post reported on the sale of Plas Newydd, the one-time home of the famous ‘Ladies of Llangollen’. Mrs Thomas Wilson of Riseholm Hall, Lincolnshire, had bought Plas Newydd, with all its interesting art treasures, in 1910. She had sold it to Mr George Harrison of Bryntisilio, once the summer residence of Sir Theodoro and Lady Martin, and Liverpool. “In Mr Harrison’s hands it is felt that Wordsworth’s ‘Low-roofed cot by Deva’s Stream,’ as he described Plas Newyd, and Browning’s ‘House beautiful’ of Bryntisilio are in safekeeping.”

However, things weren’t not quite what they seemed. In June it was reported that the house and its contents were going to be sold. “The fine old oak collected with such rare taste by ‘the ladies’ to adorn their home is unique; and included in the collection now to be dispersed, are memorials of the great Duke of Wellington, Madame de Senlis, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Southey, Wordsworth, and many other famous personages, with whom the ladies were contemporaneous”.

The Sketch - 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
It is scarcely a matter of wonder that two ladies of such divided originality, in days when the female sex generally entertained no views on woman’s rights or emancipation, became quite a power in the little village of Llangollen. (The British Newspaper Archive).

The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ were Lady Eleanor Butler (1745-1829), a sister of the 17th Earl of Ormonde, and Miss Sarah Ponsonby (1735-1831). About 1776, discontented with their life in Ireland, decided to take fate in their own hands and moved to Llangollen. They occupied a small four-roomed cottage called Pen-y-Mae which they enlarged and renamed Plas Newydd. With a fine taste in art and decoration it was transformed into a dwelling that people flocked to see from far and wide.

Plas Newydd (History Ireland)
The original cottage called Pen-y-Mae, later enlarged to become Plas Newydd. (History Ireland).
Plas Newyd 1 - The Sketch 27 Sep 1893 (BNA)
General Yorke spent thousands of pounds and spared nothing that would add to its charm and quaintness. After his death the property came into the possession of Mr G.H. Robertson, a wealthy Liverpool merchant, and later Mrs Thomas Wilson . (The British Newspaper Archive).
Liverpool Echo 7 June 1918 (BNA)
The LIverpool Echo. 7 June 1918. (The British Newspaper Archive).

At the 1918 auction the house was submitted and withdrawn at £5,250. The sale of the treasures realised about £10,000 after the six day sale. A movement was started to guarantee the retention of the house as a public property and it was thought that about £8,000 would be sufficient. However, in 1919 Plas Newydd was bought by Mr Duveen of London and Liverpool.

This turned out to be Lord Duveen of Millbank who lived his whole life in art and was known as the ‘King of Galleries’. He built the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum to house the Elgin Marbles and a major extension to the Tate Gallery. His ownership of Plas Newydd was brief. Within twelve months it had been sold to the Right Hon George Montagu Bennet, 7th Earl of Tankerville, who handed it over in perpetuity to Llangollen Town Council (after it had borrowed £3,350 from the Ministry of Health) in 1932. Today it is run as a museum by Denbighshire County Council.

Plas Newyd - The Sketch 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
The ladies filled the small rooms to overflowing, the dining-room, the library, the drawing-room, and the bed-room, which, of course, the friends shared. (The British Newspaper Archive).
Plas Newyd 2 - The Sketch 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
One of the richly furnished rooms in 1903. The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ lived at Plas Newydd for fifty years. “There is not one point to distinguish them from men; the dressing and powdering of their hair; their well-starched neckcloths, the upper part of their habits, which they always wear, made precisely like men’s coats…” (The British Newspaper Archive).
Plas Newydd (Geograph-Gwynfryn)
Plas Newydd, Llangollen. The original cottage was expanded by the ladies, and then again by subsequent owners. It is now restored to essentially the same structure left by the ladies. Its most unusual feature are the pieces of reclaimed oak carvings set out in patchwork style on the exterior of the house. The modern-day house looks remarkably different from the one shown in earlier photographs.(Geograph/Gwynfryn).

OSTERLEY PARK

‘A Palace of Palaces’: When Osterley Park, a gift of Lord Jersey, was accepted for the nation.

The Sphere - 10 Dec 1949 (BNA)
The main facade of Osterley: A frontal view of the great mansion, which passed into the hands of the people in 1949. Osterley Park had been the home of the Earls of Jersey for more than a century. In this image the gardens were in an unkempt state. (The British Newspaper Archive).

In the 1940s, the future of Osterley Park, near Isleworth, was the cause of frustration for George Child Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey.

The Manor of Osterley had been bought by Sir Thomas Gresham, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth, in 1562, who erected an ‘agreeable edifice’ built of brick and described as ‘large, convenient and thoroughly finished’.

In 1711 the house was bought by Sir Francis Child, a banker and city magnate, and it was one of his descendants, Francis Child, who employed the fashionable young architect Robert Adam, who in 20 years transformed Osterley into a palace.

Two years after Adams’ engagement Francis Child died, but his brother and heir, Robert (1739-1782), saw to the completion of the operations. Robert Child had one daughter, Sarah, who in 1782, eloped to Gretna Green with John, 10th Earl of Westmorland. The couple were soon forgiven, and their eldest daughter, Lady Sarah Fane, eventually inherited Osterley. She married in 1804 Viscount Villiers, who succeeded as 5th Earl of Jersey, and it was his heir who wanted rid of the property.

The Sphere - 17 June 1939 (BNA)
Lord and Lady Jersey seen in the grounds of Osterley Park before it was opened to the public in 1939. “I have opened Osterley,” said Lord Jersey, “as I do not live in it and there must be so many who want to see the place.” Lady Jersey was formerly the film actress, Virginia Cherrill. Lord Jersey gifted Osterley Park ten years later. (The British Newspaper Archive).

There had been long drawn-out negotiations with the National Trust. James Lees-Milne had been negotiating the transfer of the property for years, and in his 1944 diaries wrote:

“What a decline since 1939! Now total disorder and disarray. Bombs have fallen in the park, blowing out many windows; the Adam orangery has been burnt out, and the garden beds are totally overgrown. We did not go round the house which is taken over by Glyn Mills Bank, but round the confines of the estate. There are still 600 acres as yet unsold, Smith and I both deprecated the breezy way in which the Osterley agent advocated further slices to the south-east of the house being sold for building development, in order to raise an endowment. It is going to be a difficult problem how to estimate figures where so much is problematic, the outgoings associated with the museum, the number of visitors and the potential building value of the land itself.”

Lord Jersey had first offered his estate to the National Trust in 1946, but in 1948 withdrew the offer because the Middlesex County Council failed to agree on the management scheme. Afterwards Lord Jersey made new proposals which resulted in the final transfer of the property.

In December 1949, the National Trust announced that Lord Jersey’s gift of the house and 140 acres of land had been accepted.

The Sphere - 10 Dec 1949 (BNA) 1
The magnificent library of the mansion as it was in its heyday: The National Trust had announced the acceptance of Lord Jersey’s gift of the house and 140 acres of land. (The British Newspaper Archive).

The Victoria and Albert Museum bought from Lord Jersey the furniture and furnishings specially designed for the State rooms by Robert Adam. The arrangement and showing of the house was in the hands of the V&A, to whom the Trust lent four panels of Beauvais tapestry to hang in the gallery. The Trust had let the property on a long lease from the Ministry of Works and it was intended that after necessary alterations the house would be opened as a public museum. ( ‘The Sphere’ said at the time that the Government had actually handed over £120,500 for the contents of the house).

Lord Jersey moved to the island of Jersey, taking many pictures (including works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Claude) with him. Sadly, many of these were destroyed in a fire while en route to his new home.

The National Trust took full ownership in 1991, but has been accused by critics that Osterley was being ‘increasingly despoiled and dumbed-down’. Last year ‘The Spectator’ scoffed at plans by the Trust ‘to spend £356,000 and turn it into a ‘child-friendly leisure centre’.

Illustrated London News - 10 Dec 1949 1
The Tapestry Room at Osterley Park. The walls were lined with panels of Neilson-Gobelins fabrics, dating to 1775, and representing ‘Les Amours Des Dieux’. (The British Newspaper Archive).
Illustrated London News - 10 Dec 1949 4
One of the magnificent rooms in Osterley Park. The Dining Room, showing the lyre-back chairs. (The British Newspaper Archive).
Illustrated London News - 10 Dec 1949
Designed for Mrs Child in 1775 and purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Great Bed in the State Bedroom at Osterley. (The British Newspaper Archive).
The Sphere 2 - 17 June 1939 (BNA)
The Etruscan Room was an outstanding example of the 18th century embellishment at Osterley. Other features were the Wedgewood Hall and the Boucher tapestry room. (The British Newspaper Archive).
The Sphere 1 - 17 June 1939 (BNA)
The Drawing Room had many fine pictures on its walls. The British school was well represented and included the heads of Robert Child and his wife, painted by Romney for 20 guineas apiece, and Reynolds’ portrait of Sarah Child, the Gretna Green bride of Lord Westmorland. (The British Newspaper Archive).
Osterley Park (Wikipedia)
The National Trust continues to maintain Osterley Park. The house and gardens are open to the public and receive around 30,000 of the 350,000 visitors to the surrounding park. The house has featured on film and TV including ‘The Saint’, ‘The Persuaders’, ‘Miss Marple’, ‘The Grass is Greener’, ‘Young Victoria’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.